Midlake's Debut Full-Length Is a Masterpiece

Austin Chronicle | July 23, 2004

Bamnan and Slivercork (Bella Union)

Somewhere in the sea of disenchantment floats Midlake, kept adrift by rolling waves of keys and Tim Smith’s lighthouse vocals that warn of future doom and tell life’s stories. The Denton quintet’s full-length debut, Bamnan and Slivercork, comprises limestone layers and swirling pools, dreamscapes and foggy mornings. It’s chattering throngs of schoolchildren and highways swarming with rush hour traffic. Nature and bustle entwined. Each carnivalesque and airy track draws hints from SoCal’s emotive Grandaddy, that indie bedrock, while still remaining fresh and dewy. Songs of overlaid vocals, Korg strata, and simple beats culminate into a surreal reality. Opening droner "They Cannot Let It Expand" explores the full potential of four keyboards and three guitars – without a hint of overkill. Soothing flutes announce the arrival of album highlight "Kingfish Pies," followed by tambourine and drowning synthesizer blasts. Horns meet with keys in "The Jungler" invoking a beautiful confusion and anxiety. And the acoustic guitar and effectless vox reflect a longing and loneliness in "Anabel." Sometimes creepy and often comforting, Midlake has transformed the promise of 2001’s Milkmaid Grand Army EP into a grandiose and emotional adventure, and an international legion is quickly forming. A European landscape with an American wit leaps from booming speakers to take residence in the imaginative child within. Bamnan is not unlike a suit skipping robe with a sno-cone in one hand and a lollipop in the other – a much-needed return to childhood in the midst of familiar surroundings.

HHH1/2 – Darcie Stevens

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